How the Pentagon’s top-brass generals burned the careers of subordinates but then pivoted to lucrative careers all while losing the wars they were supposed to be winning
The new book, A Few Bad Men, details the mendacity and mad dishonesty of retired Marine General James “Mad Dog” Mattis. The fact that it was written by a Marine once under his command, whom he betrayed for the sake of politics and getting to slap on another star, says volumes about this once-lionized figure.
It all goes back to an incident in Afghanistan in 2007, and the Court of Inquiry trial of innocent Marines that followed, which Mattis himself instigated.
Lt. Colonel Steve Morgan, USMC (retired) and jury member of the 2008 Marine Special Operations Command’s Court of Inquiry says in the foreword to A Few Bad Men, “This is a case of a perfect storm of toxic leadership.”
The most legendary Marine of all time, Lieutenant General John A. Lejeune, the 13th commandant of the Marine Corps, laid out clearly how to effectively nurture and lead Marines: “Make every effort by means of historical, educational, and patriotic addresses to cultivate in their hearts a deep abiding love of the Corps and Country” and “the key to combat effectiveness is unity and esprit that characterizes itself in complete irrevocable mutual trust.”
On February 3, 2005, when Lieutenant General Mattis was attending the Armed Forces Communications and Electronic Associations forum in San Diego, he said: “You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them. It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right up there with you. I like brawling.” He also likes hearing the sound of his own voice.
During this same time, Mattis partnered with General David Petraeus to develop the joint counterinsurgency doctrine of winning hearts and minds. Mattis hijacked the phrase from the Hippocratic oath for his Marines to follow, “First do no harm.” This sounded good to the media and politicians in Washington, but Marines are not physicians and Afghanistan was no sterile operating room. It was a hellscape in which Marines constantly faced threats and the possibility of betrayal from 360 degrees. Mattis’ Marine Hippocratic oath sent mixed signals for his Marines, who had it on his good authority that “It’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot . . . some people.”
Just over two years later, I led the First Marine Special Operations Task Force. We landed in Afghanistan on February 12, 2007. Before long the First was involved in a complex ambush near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, on March 4, 2007. We were attacked by a suicide car-bomb, waves of Taliban fighters on both sides of the road, a sniper, and a mob that placed an obstacle to trap us in an ambush kill box. We successfully counterattacked, killed the Taliban terrorists, avoided civilian casualties, and returned to base within 20 minutes, where we learned of the Taliban’s swift information operations campaign that was already underway, accusing us of mass-murdering Afghan civilians. The Taliban’s version of events went out within 20 minutes through the BBC followed by countless others. Ultimately, the president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, condemned our actions and the Army generals kicked us out of AfghSupport the show
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